Where were you 30 years ago today? Me, I was sitting in the back of my parents Subaru station wagon on the way to the theater to see The Empire Strikes Back! Why do I remember that so vividly (especially the fact that my parents had a Subaru)? Well, that car had a ceiling mounted radio/climate control system, so as a 6 year-old kid…with it’s glowing, fully lit overhead system adorned with what seemed like a million knobs, switches and buttons, it was our Millennium Falcon!
I can also tell you where I was on November 19th, 1982… that would be at the theater, attending the theatrical re-release of The Empire Strikes Back and just to round the whole thing out, on February 21st, 1997 I was also at the theater for the theatrical release of The Empire Strikes Back: Special Edition, of which I was fortunate enough to be sharing my local theater with none other than Darth Vader himself, Mr. David Prowse, who introduced the movie to a sold-out crowd.
That’s right, one of the most legendary Sci-Fi/Fantasy films and arguably the single best Star Wars film ever made, celebrates it’s 30th Anniversary today. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, directed by Irvin Kershner and based on a story by George Lucas, written by Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan hit theaters on May 21, 1980. The Empire Strikes Back was made for paltry $18 million dollars, and between it’s initial release and it’s 1997 re-release, the sequel to 1977’s Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope has earned over $500 million dollars worldwide.
There’s more below but first, lets travel back in time and watch the original theatrical trailer for The Empire Strikes Back with narration by Han Solo himself, Mr. Harrison Ford.
Theatrical Trailer: Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Every generation has a film or two that they remember vividly and go back to for comparison with newer movies and I don’t think any movie has been used in that way, more than The Empire Strikes Back (and for good reason). The younger generations may look towards The Matrix or even Avatar and want them to achieve the cult-like following and status of George Lucas‘ Star Wars films but, they simply don’t measure up, on any level. While both The Matrix and Avatar used groundbreaking techniques and technologies to capture their stories, they would have never even gotten past the ‘dream’ state by their respective creators if it weren’t for George Lucas, Industrial Light and Magic and Skywalker Sound, all of which were born with the original Star Wars film and solidified their place in the movie making history with The Empire Strikes Back. Without ILM and Skywalker Sound, a vast majority of non-Star Wars films made in recent memory would look and sound very different.
Whether you love, or hate the Universe that Lucas created and the status that I wholeheartedly believe it deserves, not only in film making but in storytelling and popular culture, I can assure you that you’re not likely to see ‘The Matrix Weekends‘ at your local theme park, and you’re not likely to see James Cameron saddle up his entire company and head out for the annual ‘Avatar Celebration‘ event for his fans, nor are you likely to see Garrisons of Na’vi from from more than 40 countries visiting sick children in a hospital, that is a kind of magic that very few things on earth can generate.
On this 30th Anniversary, I’m reminded of a couple of things I miss most from my childhood – Number one would be my first dog, he and I would play in the snow in the backyard together and there was no better Chewbacca to my Han Solo (miss ya buddy). I also miss my original AT-AT and Snowspeeder, you have no idea how many times I re-enacted that Hoth/AT-AT leg harpooning scene in my living room, I probably drove my Mom crazy with that… Not that I’d do that now, it would just look cool on my desk (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it). Sadly those toys are long gone, besides… the new AT-AT and Snowspeeder that are coming out make my old toys look like hunks of junk anyway, but I digress.. My point is, George Lucas imparted a sense of wonder and imagination in a kid from Detroit that likely wouldn’t have existed without the original trilogy as a whole and especially The Empire Strikes Back. Plus, Yoda taught me to “believe” and Luke taught me what it is to be a hero… and that it really hurts to have your hand sabered off, so it was educational “from a certain point of view”.
So, to honor of this hallowed Anniversary in the Star Wars universe, I implore each and everyone of you… at some time today, break out your DVD and watch it and over the next week, whether you’re at work, home or school, try your best to legitimately fit one of the following phrases below into a conversation. If you manage to do it – come back and tell us what you said and how you fit it in, you won’t win anything except bragging rights but, it could be fun!
- Never tell me the odds.
- You must unlearn what you have learned.
- Laugh it up, fuzzball.
- Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm?
- And I thought they smelled bad on the outside.
- No. No. That’s not true. That’s impossible!
- Do… or do not. There is no try.
- I am altering the deal. Pray I don’t alter it any further.
- Hey, Your Worship, I’m only trying to help.
- Hello, what have we here? (and say it with the smoothness of Billy Dee)
- I have a bad feeling about this…
The ironic thing about Star Wars… it truly is a force and though The Empire Strikes Back was indeed a dark time for the Rebellion, it was also a catalyst for fandom, the likes of which the world had never seen before!
May The Force Be With Us All… Always.